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Guest aziz
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Ok, long time, no post. I can’t not say anything anymore, and here in Richmond, VA, no one else cares, so…forum post it is.

First, preface by saying I really hate the idea of Unions. Back in the day they made sense, when factory workers were counting themselves lucky to make $.25/day and there was a host of other would-be workers ready to take their spot in unskilled trades should they not march to the boss’s drum. When workers are seen as infinitely and easily replaceable, collective bargaining is the only way to establish any kind of safety and security. Kind of a “no, Mr. Employer, I don’t offer you anything you couldn’t replace within a half hour, but if you don’t treat me right, every employee in the factory will walk out, so now you are forced to deal with me as though I were individually valuable” thing. Makes sense, under those circumstances. Not so much when you are talking about skilled trades, where employers are motivated by training time and expense to retain the employees they already have. And REALLY doesn’t make sense when you are talking about professional athletes in the most elite league of their sport. Guys who are the definition of “not easily replaceable”. Because if they were, they wouldn’t be playing in that elite league. They are inherently valuable due to their skill level, and as such are the furthest thing from vulnerable employees requiring the protection of collective bargaining.

A big part of me would like the NHL to say, “you know what? There will be no new CBA. We the owners will draw up the internal guidelines for how contracts will work in this league, and you the players can either sign contracts with us or not. Previously signed contracts will be honored to the letter, and any new ones will be subject to the principals we determine. Just like any other franchise-based organization. If you don’t like that, go ahead and strike or whatever…but we have a combined $1.2bil that we are willing to spend on players. If you think you can do better with a different league, go ahead and give it a go. Enjoy wearing Cyrillic advertisements across your butt.”

Not gonna happen, but would be nice.

I know that this problem right now is the Owners’ fault. They signed the contracts, they inflated the expenses, they looked for loopholes around their own rules. On a purely “fair” level, the Owners are wrong, the players are right. Rah players. Thing is, “fair” isn’t the final word on how this thing plays out. “Makes sense” is.

Here’s the thing:

$3.3bil in revenue by the league. That’s an average of $110mil per team. 57% going to player salaries leaves $47.3mil. Now pay for chartered flights to all away games. Now pay for hotel rooms for the players and staff for all away games. Now pay for equipment. Now pay for ice time at the practice facility. Now pay for rent at the home arena. Now pay the salaries of your coaching staff. Now the training staff. Now the equipment guys. Now your management staff. Now the arena workers. Now pay for advertising. Now the various insurance coverages required. Etc, etc, etc.

Finally, realize that the $110mil average is heavily skewed by the couple big earners in the league. Toronto, NYR, Montreal, namely. Ultimately, 9 teams were at or above the $110mil average last season. 21 teams below that. 7 teams $30mil or more below that. St Louis brought in $78mil last season. The cap floor was $48.3mil for 2011-12. A little less than $30mil beyond player salaries to cover all other operating expenses. From what I can see, they ended up $2.7mil in the red. Before taxes.

Which is why I say “fair” isn’t relevant. Fair or not, it makes no sense for St Louis to put a team on the ice next season without something changing in a major way. Missed revenue from not having a season is a nonsensical concept for St Louis. They stand to save $2.7mil by not playing. An agreement that does not give St Louis’s Ownership confidence of a serious rebalance in short order will not –cannot- be agreed to. 18 teams total are in this or worse boats. 18 teams actively benefit by not playing. 18 teams whose existences are unsustainable without a very real (and likely large) change in the disposition of revenue.

Fair/not fair is beside the point. The Owners are the idiots who couldn’t control themselves. The Players are the victims who lost the previous negotiation, and are now being asked to sacrifice again. True, true, and true. Yet, the bottom line remains: more than half the league cannot survive as things are right now. The bottom line is, in fact, the bottom line….and the bottom line is not healthy for a voting majority of the Ownership groups.

In contrast, the salary a player collects goes into his bank account. Minus taxes, but beyond that, every dollar he earns is a dollar of profit to be spent as he sees fit (yes, yes, escrow, too). Whether the Players average $2mil or $3mil or $1mil, netting negative dollars is not a possibility for them. The question the Players are asking is “how much money will I make”, while the majority of Owners are asking “will I lose money”. Again, fair or not, the Owners are asking a far more vital question.

Next up is Fehr. Here is the problem with how Unions are organized: Fehr has no intrinsic interest in getting the Players back on the ice. His focus is exclusive to the negotiations at hand, the long term big picture means little or nothing. The health and sustainability of the league are completely irrelevant to him. He was hired in anticipation of this CBA fight, hired based on his reputation of being a hardass…and I would imagine would resign at some point shortly after negotiations are concluded, mission having been accomplished. If half the teams in the league collapse over the next decade, that’ll likely be years after he severed ties to the game and won’t cost him a night’s sleep. He was hired because he is a bulldog negotiator, hired to win a specific contest. Not find the best deal possible, mind you. He was hired to win. Given his reputation, his resume, I have to think his hiring implied a mandate to not back down at any cost, in a face saving exercise for the Union after the last CBA. It is what he does, the only reason you’d hire him.

So you wanna know why there has been no progress in the talks? It’s because you have an oil and vinegar situation sitting across the table from each other. Owners whose teams’ continued existence depends on winning this negotiation outright on one side, and a man who sees his explicit purpose as being to win the negotiation outright on the other. If the Owners compromise in any significant way, they remain in dangerous financial waters. If Fehr compromises in any significant way, he hasn’t done what he perceives to be his job.

And so: stalemate.

Given the consequences for a bad deal to the majority of Owners and Fehr’s mandate…I cannot see any way to move forward until Fehr is replaced by someone who doesn’t see his job as winning per se, but rather getting the best deal possible given the financial realities of the league. The Players will need to back down on a lot of issues, their representative ultimately will have to be someone willing to surrender on those issues while looking for other areas in which to soften the blow. Fehr looking to run the table isn’t ever going to have a positive result.

Ok, rant over.

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brelic

Wait... I never said that the players were the problem. The owners are being petulant and dirty. The problem, at least from my perspective, is that I care for neither side. I think the owners are being dirty, and the players are spoiled brats who don't know how incredible they have it. I cannot relate to players or their situation. I can't relate to billionaire business owners either. So there you have it. They've made me not care about them or their product. Well done!

JackStraw

That's the tightrope they have to walk. Usually in these situations I feel pretty much the same, with probably some sympathy for the players (since they're the ones I pay to watch). But this time, I think the owners are so wrong that I would actually rather see the season lost than to see the players give in. And it's not even because I hate the owners or love the players, it's because I think forcing the owners to deal directly with the problems they themselves created is what's best for the le

JackStraw

"Stop me, before I spend again!" Right? Do you really think that stopping the Pens from paying Crosby $9 million a year (and other similar contracts) is gong to save hockey in Phoenix or Columbus? Doesn't the question of whether or not those struggling franchises should even be where they are come into play? The league should be able to blithely go ahead and put franchises wherever it pleases, and then expect the players to pay for their bad decisions? If you haven't already, read this: http://w

@aziz

Good post. Lots of solid points.

I don't have time to touch on all of them, but would like to address the perception that Fehr is not interested in the long term, but rather motivated solely by an implied mandate to win now. Some of that might be true re: hired because of his reputation and to win. They needed the best, and by all accounts, they got it. Bettman is not an easy man to match, and Fehr just might be as hardheaded as Bettman. Both are unlikable people, but both are among the best at what they do.

For Fehr, I think he *is* focused on the long term well-being *for the players*, and not necessarily the owners. I've read that he is extremely focused on breaking the cycle of negotiate-lockout-play-negotiate-lockout-play that's been going on over the past two decades. That means he won't concede any points unless the bigger picture reflects something sustainable over the long term *for the players*. Constant negotiations are not good for the players, not good for the owners, and not good for the league in the public's eye. You talk about a $3.3 billion pie? Well, it used to be. Now there's no guarantee how big or small the pie will be.

I still side with the owners only because I just don't see any harm being done to players. I do see lots of harm to owners - regardless of whether it's from their own doing - because fully HALF of the league cannot turn a profit. That's a sick business. Regardless of who you think is 'right' or 'wrong', the business as it stands is unsustainable.

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I agree. I have said it before, push come to shove, it's the owners business. End of story. Look how well things turned out for Hostess.... That was like the union chopping the head off the body to remove a splinter...

Hostess is a really good example.

The "owners' business" was run into the ground by the owners, who then left the mess to the employees to fix.

Hostess is gone. The NHL may well follow suit.

Note that there will always be Twinkies (an asset to be sold in bankruptcy) and there will always be hockey.

There just won't be a $3.3B NHL.

I'm not planning on eating Hostess produts (or, indeed, any brands they sell off) and I'm not convinced "I

ll be back" to line the owners' pockets with filthy lucre.

I really enjoyed watching hockey for 44 years.

R.I.P. NHL

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" The "owners' business" was run into the ground by the owners, who then left the mess to the employees to fix."

Or, to rephrase, the "owner's business" was run into the ground by the owners, who then tried to salvage something from the ruins by reducing expenses where they could. The union, being run by professional union leaders and having no particular interest in the health of the "owner's business", opted to call the owner's bluff and risk killing off the business rather than suffer the ignominy of defeat in what -to them- is an entirely abstract exercise. They remain employed, and even if some of their former members are not, they can be proud they stood strong.

And now blame Mitt Romney, apparently.

I have to think the Hostess negotiations, and the NHL negotiations, would go much differently if the union leadership was comprised entirely of employees/players. People whose futures depend on the larger organization being healthy.

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Who IS running the Hostess employees' union? Members of the Union...

This has nothing to do with Mitt Romney - like everything else in the world.

There are concessions necessary from both sides in most negotiations. In fact, the Hostess employees - like the NHL players - have given concessionsin previous negotiattions.

And the Hostess management - like the NHL owners - kept screwing up.

To be clear - there is no indication whatsoever that the owners like Snider, Jacobs, MLSE, etc. are losing money like Hostess. The prolblem those owners have is not making ENOUGH money. The poor dears.

There is an ideological element to this - and its entirely on the Randian fantasies of the job destroyers, er, um, creaturzz..

Immediate 50/50 with players contracts fully honored SIMPLY DOESN'T WORK financially. It can't. If it could, there would be no need to change anything...,

These are the same owners who were happily signing conttracts with players that they KNEW they would try to cut by 20% as soon as the ink was dry - in "good faith" of course. And the players were foolish enough to sign the contraccts they were offered.

Why didn't the players figure out that the billionaires who are offering them the million dollar contracts were following a business model that was unsustainable?

BECAUSE IT'S NOT THEIR JOB TO MAKE SURE THE OWNERS ARE FOLLOWING A SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS MODEL.

The players play hockey.

It is the "businessmen" in charge of the "organizations" (both terms used VERY LOOSELY) who are in charge of making sure they are running a sustainable business.,

Just like Hostess.

The line worker making $11 and change after 27 years with the company to fix the Twinkie injector isn't the "problem" and more than the hockey player signing a contract to PLAY HOCKEY is the "problem" in the NHL.

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The line worker making $11 and change after 27 years with the company to fix the Twinkie injector isn't the "problem" and more than the hockey player signing a contract to PLAY HOCKEY is the "problem" in the NHL.

The guy who fixes the Twinkie injector blastamax 5000 doesn't have to worry about it now because the Union that he pays dues to just got him fired. Had he excepted 10 dollars an hour he could go to work tomorrow, now he can go take a number at the unemployment office. The execs of the company are gonna bank their millions. The Union bosses are gonna bank their millions and 18500 other people can go look for a new job.

The 2nd problem with unions is that many union workers seem to think that the sole purpose of a business is to provide them with a job, benefits and a retirement. That simply isn't true. The business exists to make as much money as possible for the share holders/investors ect...

And once again, the guy packing twinkies probably would have prefered to take a pay cut rather than lose his job. The Union failed them big time and on top of that the workers had to pay the union dues to let it all happen. How ironic.

It sucks for the Union workers but can you imagine all the non union workers at hostess that are losing their jobs because of a union they dont even belong to. Talk about being pissed off...

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No, the union whose strike was the final nail in hostesses coffin was the Bakery, Confectionary & Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM). With over 100,000 members, the couple thousand members from hostess were less important than maintaining the perception of union strength, and so they stood firm.

No argument that management in both the nhl and hostess created the initial problems, but the unions in both cases refused to allow management to try to fix things. With hostess, it was decided it was better for the bakers to be unemployed than be seen as weak. IMO, Fehr would similarly just as soon see his membership playing in Europe for years than to back down. He doesn't play, so what does he Cate? Just as BCTGM president Frank Hurt is a union employee, not a Hostess employee, so what difference is any of this to him?

The nhl owners screwed up badly and often. They need to be allowed to fix things in a way that makes their teams sustainable, though. To date, union management has had no interest in that as an outcome to these negotiations. Until that changes, there will be no nhl hockey.

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" It sucks for the Union workers but can you imagine all the non union workers at hostess that are losing their jobs because of a union they dont even belong to. Talk about being pissed off..."

Not only the non union workers, but anyone who wasn't in the baker's union. That one union did this. Even the teamsters backed off. The bakers union, though, had a point to prove.

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Well, if you see that the company is in that bad a shape and you decide to strike when the company is trying to fix it then it just doesn't make sense to me. They had to know they were killing it and the company even told them and gave them a date that they would have to go bankrupt. If the union cared they would pony up to the table with offers to help so their members keep their jobs. But as you pointed out, it's a big union and they really didn't care... sad.

Oh well, someone will by the Twinkie Brand and recipe... and then we'll have twinkies again, and wonder bread and snowballs and............

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" It sucks for the Union workers but can you imagine all the non union workers at hostess that are losing their jobs because of a union they dont even belong to. Talk about being pissed off..."

Not only the non union workers, but anyone who wasn't in the baker's union. That one union did this. Even the teamsters backed off. The bakers union, though, had a point to prove.

And some other company will buy up the Twinkie and Devil Dog assets from a bankrupt Hostess and continue to make tasty cakes... or Kakes as the case may be.

And the union DID give concessions to help fix things. And then management keot screwing up and demanded more concessions.

At what point do you stop playing "sucker" to the people who continually screw up while inflating their salaries to make it more difficult for the company? Which the liberal rag the Wall Street Journal notes happened under Hostess management.

The NHLPA gave the owners a hard salary cap and have made serious concessions in the past two lockouts.

And the owners did everything they could to circumvent the cap before coming back and saying "we want more - please and thank you."

Again, the players are NOT striking. The players are LOCKED OUT.

There is greed in this situation - and it is the owners who represent the vast majority of it.

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Which the liberal rag the Wall Street Journal notes happened under Hostess management.

Liberal rag? I read it every day, and it's not a left-leaning daily, if that's what you're getting at. It's clearly center-right, especially their opinion pieces.

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At what point do you stop playing "sucker" to the people who continually screw up while inflating their salaries to make it more difficult for the company?

The answer to that question is how much do you want a paycheck next week. Given this economy, you give in and go look for a new job at a better company as soon as you can. That's what I did 4 years ago. The big company I worked for kept screwing up and cutting benefits and then no raises. I didn't like it so I looked for another job and bailed on them after 10yrs... But what I DIDN'T do was quit (or in this case go on strike and lose my job) until I had another one lined up. That was 4 years ago and my friends that are still there bit..ch and moan non stop about it. It hasn't changed at all for the good, just gotten worse. And they keep sitting around as if they expect something to change for the better. What part of the past 14 years have they failed to get their mind wrapped around? Oh well....

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I have several thoughts, and neither of them are favorable to either side. But to be blunt, I am tired of hearing/reading/discussing the whole fu*cking situation. They are killing the game/kiling the momentum the league had and killing fans passion for the NHL. If they want to do that, let them....NOTHING we do is going to change what they do. Don't buy tickets/cancel your season tickets, don't get Center Ice, etc....it's a blip on their radar. In any average hockey market, other people will step in and fill the void that fans like us leave. Below average markets will have issues, no doubt. But 17000 fans could all cancel their tickets tomorrow, and in a market like Philly, 17000 more would step right up and buy them.

Other fans will come walking back like a donkey to a trough....personally, I'm about done with them. I see 7-10 youth hockey games a week..I am getting my hockey fix. If they come back, I will watch...I will not attend a game, and I will watch with mild interest at best for quite some time.

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Well, even if they come back this year which I doubt, it just wont be any fun. Its not a "real" season. I wouldn't even want to win the Stanley Cup in a screwed up year. It's pretty much over for me either way...

The discussions here are more about philosephy rather than solutions anyway.

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Liberal rag? I read it every day, and it's not a left-leaning daily, if that's what you're getting at. It's clearly center-right, especially their opinion pieces.

I think that was a kind of tongue in cheek reference.......Meaning even they saw what happened at Hostess. It is always easiest to blame the union though. Try asking Aerospace engineers what happens when you de-certify your own union. They suddenly had to work an extra 5 hours a week AND lost the pay they got when working weekends. Oh they still have to work weekends they just don't get paid for it anymore...

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As I noted in the shoutbox, the Hostess union SHOULD have allowed a secret ballot on the proposal - and, I will add, so should ALL union votes be secret.

There are definite abuses of union rights and influence - I live in Philadelphia, for frak's sake. We're the POSTER CHILD for it.

But those abuses in no way exonerate the excesses of management or the desire of management to erase their mistakes on the backs of the workers.

The problem ISN'T the assembly lin worker. The problem is management kicking the ball down the field while racking up bonuses and huge salaries, giving the unions unsustainable concessions rather than biting the bullet and making the hard decisions they are paid to make day in and day out - not just once the house of cards they've assiduously built collapses.

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I know that this problem right now is the Owners’ fault.

This is really the key point in your post. Who is responsible for those struggling franchises? Who decided there would be a lockout? Furthermore, available evidence suggests that the lockout is being driven by Bettman, with the owners of wealthy teams being his strongest supporters. Your suggestion is that Fehr should be replaced by someone less capable who will allow the owners to once again force the players to cover their arses because they don't know how to run their own league? Sorry, doesn't work for me.

Fehr is doing his job. If we're lucky he'll be able to get the billionaires who created the mess to clean it up.

And if the NHL goes the way of the dinosaurs, so be it. I'll still be able to watch the same players in a new league. I'm sure Philadelphia will get a team.

Edited by JackStraw
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I detect the good old anti-rich people thing over and over again when talking about unions... Must be some sort of envy or entitlement thing cause I keep trying to figure it out. No one was saying the owners (whether NHL or Hostess) didn't screw it up but it's still their business to screw up if they want (which you almost gotta figure is true... I mean Phoenix!? Really???). Well, the workers are the workers and I guess thats just the way it is. If the NHL doesn't get fixed teams will go under and then the union will be screaming bloody murder over that. The players can give in now and earn some money or not. The NHL will go on at some point regardless. Just the same as the union bosses and execs at hostess will be more than ok and someday another company will make twinkies. But those 18500 workers are the ones screwed... If thats what a Union does for ya then a-ok. And just on a side note, my company asked me to go to meetings and not get paid. When I was done laughing and said no they just stood there looking at me. Then they paid me to go to the meetings and gave me a promotion a couple months later...

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I think that was a kind of tongue in cheek reference.......Meaning even they saw what happened at Hostess. It is always easiest to blame the union though. Try asking Aerospace engineers what happens when you de-certify your own union. They suddenly had to work an extra 5 hours a week AND lost the pay they got when working weekends. Oh they still have to work weekends they just don't get paid for it anymore...

Can you imagine if all workers were protected by unions???? Man, we would definitely not have the same material wealth we have now. I'm a non-bargaining civil servant, and let me tell you, I work a heckuva lot more than my 36 hours a week, including evenings and weekends, and they're certainly not paid.

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This is really the key point in your post. Who is responsible for those struggling franchises? Who decided there would be a lockout? Furthermore, available evidence suggests that the lockout is being driven by Bettman, with the owners of wealthy teams being his strongest supporters. Your suggestion is that Fehr should be replaced by someone less capable who will allow the owners to once again force the players to cover their arses because they don't know how to run their own league? Sorry, doesn't work for me.

Fehr is doing his job. If we're lucky he'll be able to get the billionaires who created the mess to clean it up.

And if the NHL goes the way of the dinosaurs, good riddance. I'll still be able to watch the same players in a new league. I'm sure Philadelphia will get a team.

This entire post is exactly what I was thinking too. The new league will only be in geographical regions that support and follow hockey. It is the OWNERs who eff'd themselves by putting teams in markets that it is not reasonable to expect sustainability. I could never grasp this when there were plenty of regions / markets available where hockey would be sustainable. They essentially cut one leg off and now are teetering on collapse because of their stupidity and greed. I say teetering despite the record revenue. I also am very suspectful of the claimed losses for some teams. There are many ways to state bottom lines. Yet, I am certain that at least 1/3 of the league is operating in the red. And that is WAY too much.

The owners piss and moan about the price of current contracts. Guess what: Eric Lindros contract in 1998 was 8.5 million. So, 14 years ago, his contract was essentially the same as Webers, Parise, Crosby, Malkin etc. My point being that the league is crying poor over players contracts while revenue is at a record high. I know the Flyers have always been a rich team (as has Detroit, Toronto, NY, Montreal, etc.), but there would have been ALLOT of teams willing to give E-train 8.5 million in 1998. So what is different now??

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